Rocking Horses


When I was little, my dad built a rocking horse for me. It’s one of the only things I have from him, and Justin and I have had it in our bedroom since we got married. I’m not sure why it’s been in our bedroom. But, that’s where it’s lived. It’s been in the corner more often than not, occasionally with a stray shirt over its back. For years, the rocking horse has just been an oversight.

Rocking horses, in my mind, defined my father when I was little. He had an amazing workshop in the basement, and it seems like he must have spent weeks making rocking horses. There was tracing the patterns, cutting out the pieces, sanding them down, staining them, and shellacking them. I loved when he would give me the chance to help. I remember the feel of the sponge brush in my hand. He made ten of them to donate to our school’s fair when I was in the first or second grade. One of my favorite pictures is him standing next to the stacked horses with my sister and me each sitting on one in our pajamas.

Later, when we moved to Delong Road, he still had the workshop in the basement. He didn’t build horses as often, but all the equipment was still there. I got to build a rocking horse of my own out of a “mistake” horse. When I was finished, my mom helped me donate it to The Nest, a nonprofit that helped women and children leaving abusive home situations. Even now, I can remember taking the horse to the center with my mom. It was worth all the effort to see the kids run to play with it.

And so, thirty years later, Robbie is old enough to appreciate this piece of my childhood. In the past few days, he’s figured out how to make himself rock back and forth. He’s even started to work on his dismount, although they haven’t all been successful. I keep assuring him that real riders get thrown all the time, but that doesn’t do much to dissolve his tears. Fortunately, pretzels continue to do the trick.


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